Decades later, Argentina activist finds stolen grandson
An Argentine grandmother whose rights group has fought to find babies stolen during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship finally found her long-lost grandson Tuesday, 36 years after he was snatched from his mother.
Estela Carlotto, the 83-year-old leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo group, was told that her dead daughter's missing son was found after DNA tests confirmed the 36-year-old man's identity.
"I thank all of you, God and life, because I didn't want to die without hugging him," Carlotto said with a broad smile at her organization's headquarters, surrounded by her colleagues, three surviving children, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The white-haired grandmother said she could not wait to finally meet her missing grandson, who was taken away from his mother, Laura, after she gave birth while detained during the dictatorship's "dirty war" against leftists.
"I want to touch him, look at him," Carlotto said, adding that she learned that her grandson was "an artist, a musician like many of his cousins."
"Laura is smiling from the heavens," she said.
"Some said that he looks like me. He's shaken up. Now he knows," she said, explaining why he was absent at the press conference.
Laura Carlotto, a leftist militant, was three months pregnant when she was taken to a prison camp by the right-wing authoritarian regime in 1977.
She gave birth on June 26, 1978, while in captivity. She had named the boy Guido but was killed two months after he was born. The woman's body was later handed to her mother.
Ever since then, Estela Carlotto searched desperately for her grandson, convinced that the boy, who has Italian and Argentine citizenship, must be alive.
The baby was taken away by a military regime official who handed him to a "family that raised him well, maybe innocently," Carlotto said.
- Taken by regime official -
The man was identified as Ignacio Hurban, who lives in Olavarria, a city 350 kilometers (217 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires.
He had voluntarily presented himself to a national commission that identifies missing people about a month ago, a judge and relatives said.
Carlotto's other daughter, Claudia, said she was able to speak with her nephew.
"He was very happy and emotional, and we will all see him soon," she said.
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and a sister group, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, have led a nationwide effort to reunite an estimated 500 children who were taken from leftists and government opponents during the dictatorship.
Many stolen children were raised by military and police officials. Others were even taken in by their parents' killers.
Carlotto's grandson is the 114th child to have been found, and she vowed to continue her struggle to find the others.
- 'The biggest thrill' -
News of the discovery was delivered to Carlotto by federal judge Maria Servini de Cubria, who is in charge of several cases of babies who were stolen by the right-wing military regime.
"I have located several children, but this is the biggest thrill. I always told Estela: I am going to find your grandson," Servini de Cubria told Del Plata radio.
Judge Servini de Cubria said the man's DNA was compared to the remains of his father.
"When it was known that he could be Estela's grandson, we worked all weekend and the Genetics Database did an excellent job," Servini de Cubria said.
During her desperate search, Carlotto learned the identify of her grandson's father, Oscar Montoya, whose family was also thrilled at the news.
As many as 30,000 people are believed to have been murdered or made to disappear during Argentina's "dirty war" against leftists.
The Grandmothers group, which was founded in 1977, has managed through the years to locate scores of missing children, who now are adults.
Carlotto's life was immortalized in the 2011 film "Verdades Verdaderas" (Real Truths).
"We are thinking about Laura, my sister, and in the struggle of the Grandmothers," said another brother, Remo Carlotto, who is now a federal lawmaker.